Saturday, October 17, 2009

See I did go away

PMac Imagery flickr-03157, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

A quick post to just tap the wheel and keep the blog running.

Here is a scene that just captured me and made me push and push to get it. Obviously you can tell but to take this I had to walk out into a snow drift up to my kees in a pair of jeans and sneakers. I was cold and wet and so excited I would have stayed there hours if I had to.

I'm really happy with how this turned out.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I wasnt being slack - I had a reason to be away...

Just a quick note to anyone who might be wondering. I wasnt being (completely) slack and ignoring this blog. While I gave notice that I would likely be away for a week, that grew to three when unfortunately we had a death in the family.

But, thats done with now and time to move on - so I'm back and I promise to try and get back into stride bringing you even more interesting stuff in future.

Combining passions

PMac Imagery flickr-03562, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

Its great when you get a chance to combine you passions - in this case photography and cars (and amateur motor sport in particular).

This was taken at the 2009 Newcastle Mattara hillclimb event staged in a park virtually in the center of Newcastle on a road that winds up the coast right next to the beach. Its a wonderful location and a beautiful setting.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I might be missing for a week.

At four o clock tomorrow I head off to go skiing for a week. If the lodge has wifi I'll still be in business. If, as I suspect, it doesnt then I suppose I'll see you all in a week.

Hope to see you all again soon.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Signs, miraculous or just cruel?

Signs are a wonderful source of photographic inspiration. Whether its the mangled English on signs that have been shockingly translated, weird efforts by graphic artists to represent complex ideas with stick figures or times, like now, where the signs themselves are pretty mundane but their positioning is really funny.

I literally stumbled on this as I jumped back from the edge of a platform in San Diego, California. As I tripped (because as you can see the platform was all buckled) I looked to see what was going on and I saw this. Instantly I just sat down and started laughing and laughing. Then, obviously I took the picture.

I was really late at night so the aperture is wide open, iso high and it was still a slow shutter so I was relying on the Sony's in camera stabilisation. It worked pretty well but not great. Therefore I've processed this pretty heavily in Lightroom using a Dragan preset I downloaded from the net. I sometimes wonder if this kind of processing is a bit of a 'cheat' using tricks and faux grittiness to hide basic flaws in the shot. But you know what I dont care that much because its not a competition. When I take photos its to make and image not to prove myself. I think the only duty I owe is to be honest about how I took the shot and made the image.

I cant remember where I got the preset from and I feel a bit of a thief not giving the guy who put it together a credit here. Also I suppose I should also credit Andrzej Dragan who "invented" (or at least popularised) this look.

Also I dont know if its a mitigating or aggravating factor that I didnt really copy Dragan because I found, downloaded and used the preset before I knew anything about the guy's work it was based on. It was only when I started this blog piece I figured I should do a little more research.

All in all I promise to fulfill my artistic duty and takl a little more about the creator of the preset I've used and the photographeer who inspired the look very soon.

Sometimes you find just the right thing

A short one tonight.

I'm a keen amateur photographer whose sold a few shots and is considering how to go beyond here and perhaps wondering whats beyond here and well, just wondering......

And while doing this wondering and just circling the drain ready to vanish into nothingness again I found this site, on how to make money from your pictures.

I've just scratched the surface of the site and already I've found stuff that I will be trying to implement and stuff I cant see myself doing. Is it perfect, not at all, but if we all were only ever satisfied with perfection as a starting point why bother getting out of bed in the morning?

So, if, like me, you are thinking that you might like to do beyond just shooting images for the sake of it have a butchers hook (look) at this site.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

We actually delight in being ripped off

Its been interesting to watch the press in raptures over the imminent (and now past) Leica releases, whether that Phil Askey over at DPReview or the otherwise pretty sensible Mike Johnston at The Online Photographer. For me the most interesting thing has been watching otherwise sane people willfully, almost gleefully, looking for opportunities to be ripped off.

Any way you look at the new Leica's they are ripping you off. I mean $US7000 for a manual focus camera, capable of just 2 fps, incredibly basic metering system and massive limitations in use. To me, I can only imagine how hard the Leica engineers were laughing when they decided to put a 230k, 2.5 inch LCD on the back of this camera. Can you picture that meeting:

Engineer. "ok, we are going to charge these dolts seven grand for a camera with less features than an iPhone lets at least give them a decent screen".

Manager. "Nuh, give them nothing, wait, no, even better, lets give them a screen but make it worse than anything fitted to the cheapest DSLR on the market today".

Engineer. "But we can give them a decent screen for nothing, we wont even notice the price, surely they'll hate us if we do this to them."

Manager. "You dont get it, the users will love us for it, people who cant afford the camera will scoff, sure, but those who can will make all sorts of excuses for us. They'll even use the fact that the screen is god awful as a reason to buy the camera, they'll say shit like 'real photographers dont need the screen anyway!"

Engineer. "Your kidding right?"

Manager. "Nah, trust me - just watch".

And already we are seeing exactly this reaction in fora across the internet.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, people can be such idiots. Yesterday Mike Johnston in his piece questioning what is expensive, was saying that the camera world was generally free of Veblen goods, well today Leica proved him wrong.

To feed the beast

the mouth of the beast, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

A nice simple post today that combines a few of my favorite things, one the capture of nice details in cars, and two, the use of the "direct positive" development present in lightroom.

I think this is an image that shows off both to good effect.

By the way this is an image of the fuel filler cap of a 1967 Shelby GT 500 Cobra. These were highly modified versions of the contemporary Ford Mustang. The shot was taken at the 2009 Issaquah Greenways days festival.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dog attack victim

Dog attack victim, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

Recently I was invited to do an event (which I never do) using a flash (which I never use) and I learnt how little I know.

But, I must admit I enjoyed breaking out the old flash and so have begun having more of a play. Especially combining using a few little lighting tricks with some heavier lightroom processing.

The beauty is two fold:

a) you can create some pretty interesting images, and

b) you can do this using pretty mundane materials.

In this case I just used an old doll my dog had found and chewed.

I like the tension in the shot between reality and horror. For just an instant you are (or at least I was) caught thinking it was a real baby, then you see the fantasy and its all ok, but the tension remains from that first flash of worry.

Anyway, that's how I experience this photo.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cars - these are some of my favorite things

Maser 3500GT Gearshift, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

I love cars. I love driving them, working on them, dreaming about collecting them, and - of course - photographing them.

Not being a professional most of my access to cars that arent mine comes at car shows and these are tricky places to shoot. The cars are jammed next to each other, often the bonnets are open to show of the engine, there are people all over the place and all in all its a photographic nightmare.

I generally find the best approach is to ignore the 'whole' car and just focus on the details. After all, a truly great car will almost always have those special little touches that just say "this is something special"

Well this car, a Maserati 3500GT from the late 1950's didn't disappoint. These are truly beautiful cars that make you just want to take it all in. But its beauty is far more than skin deep. Just check out this gear stick - isnt she gorgeous?

So next time you see a car show teeming with people and think its not worth stopping, think again. Think small and close and I'm certain you'll find some treasures.

If you like my car shot, you'll find many more here at my flickr site, you can even buy some prints (including prints of this photo) from my redbubble gallery.

The DSLR Marketplace - the main players

This is my take on the state of play in todays DSLR market. I apologise to Pentax and Oly users - these makers produce fine cameras, I just havent included them because both companies have such limited ranges at the moment.

Clearly my groupings are pretty arbitary and people can debate all day on precisely where any particular camera sits. In the main I've thought in terms of:

Band 1 - entry level - my first DSLR. (Note how many of these bodies can only be bought with a lens - designated by the + symbol)
Band 2 - my second, DSLR. I'm getting serious and value little touches like a second control wheel, more direct buttons, less menues etc. May do a little lite pro work.
Band 3 - ok, I'm not mucking around anymore. People have worked there way here and are after very serious photograohic tools. Bigger, heavier bodies, big VF's, lots of direct controls, can be relied upon for a variety of pro roles.

A couple of things leap out from this:

1. The need for something like the 7D becomes pretty obvious.

2. The D40 is hopelessly outgunned as an entry to DSLR land and will be replaced soon.

3. Despite having a lot of camera's on the market, Sony still has two huge gaps to fill

a) A 'serious' APS body to take on the D300s and 7D (expected to be filled in about 5 months), and

b) A high end pro model to take on the D3/1D pairs (may never be built).

Monday, September 7, 2009

Thom on Sony Envy - its not just "us"

Over here in Sony land its usually a pretty dark and dreary place full of whiners (why have we got video, Sony cant make a decent JPG, why is Sony's noise so bad - see here and here for more on the Sony Whine). So it comes as something of a surprise to see that outside our little world there are people looking in and seeing stuff they like.

Apparently its true!

After all if Thom Hogan felt motivated enough to write about Sony Envy I can only assume that there are a reasonably significant number of people out there that are at least talking up a big game for us Alpha users. Actually however, Thom is pretty right when he wonders why this is and recommends Nikon users take a deep breath. Ok, if you really, really want a high resolution FF and dont own an oil well then obviously the Sony A850 is the ducks guts. Or if you are (like me) in love with in-body image stabilization. But apart from that, even as a Sony user I struggle to understand why anyone with any sort of investment in the Nikon system would consider a swap.

Still, its nice to see Sony appears to be moving out of the joke and into the "to be taken seriously" catagory.

PS. Thom Hogan is a big Nikon blogger and as such gets a fair bit wrong on the Sony system but he is a good writer with a nicely balanced view of the world. I highly recommend you check out his site.

Editting comes to the rescue (I think)

PMac Imagery flickr-02236, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

I love this shot but to be honest, straight from the camera it didn't really work. I've got to admit, using a flash, except for a little touch of fill flash, is totally new to me and under the pressure of the "paparazzi for hire" night I just did I failed pretty badly.

But still the little devilish expression, the slight blur of movement, the costume and the lighting all gave me the desire to press on and make something of the shot. But what?

I decided that the focus of the shot is the dancers face and that wonderful expression, so that got the majority of the light. Obviously the background was adding nothing so I took that to black. I then decided that what I was left with was something sort of exotic, so I went for a grainy, blurred vision like you'd get in a cheap tourist brochure to somewhere like Brazil in the 1970's.

In the end while still not the greatest shot ever taken I actually quite like this.

(though I really need to work on my lighting skills)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

OMG - I had the right spec, just the wrong company.

In the frenzy leading up to the Sony A850 I had a stab at its specification - assuming that it was going to be an uber APS-C body to compete with the Nikon D300s. Clearly I was totally wrong with the A850 being an A900 lite. But I clearly wasnt a million miles away from what some people think the prime APS body should be.

Compare the Canon 7D thanks (DPReview for the specs) to my idea of what the Sony A850 was going to be and judged how close I got.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Dont always delete your just 'ok' photos.

DSC01076, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

Not the best photo I've ever taken and absolutely not the best shot ever taken of this scene but it was certainly the best shot I got of this classic skyline. Now a couple of years later I'm so glad I've got this image and a little sad how close I came to deleting it.

The lesson here is we semi serious amateurs with pretensions of being artists have to be careful sometimes not to set our sights too high and lose simple but great memories because a shot doesn't meet our standards.

Not every shot has to be a work of art, always remember sometimes a decent shot is enough for a great memory.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Well they are out - A850, A550, A500

Well its the day after Christmas and the new cameras are out and about.

After all the leaks there isn't much we either didn't already know or at least strongly suspect so and understand that there isn't much excitement in this release but actually I'm pretty happy.

1. A850. essentially an A900 with some very small bit missing for a 26% price reduction. The first 'new'(ish) FF under 2k. I love that.

2. A500/550. A nice little pair of cameras that might not be cutting edge but offer a good balance of features, move forward a little from where Sony had been before and show that Sony is sticking around for the long haul. One interesting, and a little disappointing, thing is that in an effort to squeeze new features and old features into these bodies it appears Sony has lost their way a little in ergonomics. Well thats based on the DPreview hands on preview at least.

Hey - while I'm hear I'll take a little credit that my guesses on pricing and features for these cameras was pretty close as discussed here.

Some interesting things for me:

3. Sony has shown its happy for its price ranges to overlap - ie the cheapest 5XX is near as dammit to the priciest 3XX, the priciest 5XX is similarly close to the 700. This is good news, it suggests that any future A7XX series wont be constrained to stay away from the A850 and an uber APS, Nikon D300s competitor is possible.

4. Sony has a new 14 Mp CMOS chip capable of supporting 7FPS, main sensor live view and ISO 12800 that was not announced to the world by the sensor division and did not appear in a Nikon. That is a clear indication that the balance of influence on the Sony sensor division is shifting away from external customers.

Pushing the boundaries of Lightroom

an odd conveyance, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

I am essentially lazy so in the main I've confined my editing to Lightroom. I know, I know, you really need layers and curves and all the power of a proper editor to really go to town and I promise I will learn to do that.

But in the meantime I've begun experimenting to see just how far I can push the processing in Lightroom and so far I've been very pleasantly surprised with what I can achieve.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


chairs, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

A simple photo taken at the Seattle Sculpture Museum in, funnily enough, Seattle. In this shot I was grabbed by the lines and textures and curves of the scene. But on the screen it just wasnt that strong.

Perhaps with a cool lighting setup I could have got all the interest in my head onto the screen and/or paper.

Instead I played with the processing a little in lightroom, using a "Dragan" preset I downloaded as a starting point but then darkening up the green even more, cooling down the colour temp and toning down the artificial vignetting. I still dont think I've done the scene justice but I do like it anyway.

Dyxum - I used to love you

Dyxum, an A mount forum and information source on the net (probably THE) internet resource for we Minolta and Sony users is brilliant. It has great features like the lens review databases, fantastic forums free of the worst of the obvious trolling of DPreview and generally a friendly and helpful community feel. Oh, and I should also add a really good photo sharing vibe for when talking about gear gets you down.

And yet I'm not feeling the love any more - what went wrong?

I think the constant moaning has simply left me feeling withered and dry. The forums seem to be littered now with a never ending stream of angst and woe. If I want that I'll get off the net and watch tv designed for teens (like Skins - is that the worst series ever made?) Its like all the posters have turned into 15 year olds with a serious case of "the normals" whining about how terrible their utterly fantastic lives are.

And that the harsh truth. If you own a modern DSLR, and I dont care if its a Canon, Sony, Nikon, Pentax, or Olympus its a brilliant camera. If you've bought good quality lenses, and I dont care if they are name brand, Sigma, Tokina or Tamron you have some of the best lenses ever made. Whatever brand you have, your stuff is almost certainly wonderful.

And yet right now I suspect there are people on DPreview or Dyxum wringing their hands over the fact that the new Sony A500 doesnt offer some mode that the Nikon D90 does or that the A850 has half a stop more noise at ISO 6400 than the Canon 5D MkII. So I've pretty much given up.

Not completely, I'm not leaving the forum, I'm not handing over my registration, but I havent posted anything for a few weeks and I dont know when (or if) I will again. Perhaps when some of the whiners actually bite the bullet and leave, perhaps when someone says something so stupid I just cant hold back, who knows.

But I am sad that I feel this way.

It was the night before Christmas

Well all the rumour mills are running hot, screen dumps from small country sites are popping up, the doomsayers are saying and the fan boys are braying. All that means only one thing - new cameras are coming soon.

The rumors say three new cameras, the A850, A550 and A500 all to be announced tomorrow. Oh please, please please Sony please give us something new. Please please please dont hold back. You are one of the largest and most diverse electronics houses out there. You used to lead the market. Please remember what that was like and stop playing safe, lead.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

the fun doesnt end with sunset

ribbon, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

Recently I resorted to one of the old stand bys for a photographer - the sun set. Hey, dont get me wrong, that sounds a bit dismissive, I dont really mean it to sound that way. I've actually had a pretty good time lately chasing sunsets and I've captured a few decent images.

But the point I wanted to make today is that these days the fun doesnt end with sunset. In 2009 with DSLRs that have such wonderful IQ up to and beyond ISO 1600 and bodies like the Sony A700 with in-body stabilization we can keep shooting for ages after the sun had dipped below the horizon.

Which brings us to this image. I took this late one evening, about 45 minutes after the sun had set just beside Stockton bridge in Newcastle NSW. I love the colours, the shapes and the overall feel.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The rampant hypocrisy of camera forums

Has anyone else ever noticed that the same people that are the first people to claim that no one should buy a new lens or camera are also the loudest whingers about new cameras when they come out.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Photographing models - another new frontier

i see you, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

A little while ago I tried something new - taking photos of animals on the beach with a slow shutter allowing the motion blur to add to the sense of movement.

Well here's another new thing for me - models.

I'm not a sociable photographer, I usually love putting on my iPod, isolating myself away from all the other people out there and just photographing them. But in a small step forward in a recent event organised by the Newcastle Hunter Valley Photographers flickr group one of the others brought a model along and I had my first, halting, tentative and shy attempt at photographing a model.

This isnt really something I've ever thought of doing before and I wasnt really emotionally prepared for it so I didnt exactly cover myself in glory. In my defence I didnt exactly have all the right gear like a decent flash for a bit of fill flash etc.

Still amongst all the dross I think I captured one or two images I actually like - and this is one. In this case, the natural light and shade has produced a nice contrast while the model has stared straight down the barrel of the lens and given me a really cool 'look'.

And like a decent golf shot - getting one right can be enough to make you want to come back.

I will get better at this.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Composition - pushing the rules

getting amongst it, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

There are lots of rules around composition - perhaps the single most famous is the "rule of thirds". Basically this means putting the subject a little off center so that its interest is emphasized by the use of space and perspective.

This is a good rule and one I use a lot.

But sometimes it nice to push the rules and this is what I've done here. In this case the subject inst at the one third point across the frame but rather at about the one sixth point. But I think it really works better this way. This image is all about the girls location, by placing her so close to the edge with so much empty water (and frame) in front of her we see just how big the lake is and where she is in context.

I like it and I think this is a good reason to always be guided by the rules but not bound be them.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sony A850, A5XX - whats the future for the A7XX?

Lets imagine the rumours turn out t be true and over the next few weeks we Sony users get a couple of new cameras, what are they likely to be?

A850 - an A900 lite. Well the A850 seems to be so certain that one of the best Sony/Minolta mount sites on the net (Dyxum) has already created an A900/A850 forum area. Historically this has only occurred when the site owner has had an inside tip that he really trusts. So far he hasn't been wrong and I'm willing to trust Mladen again.

Right now the only outstanding discussions on this revolve around price - most "responsible" net guessers seem to be saying something around $US2000 - so a $600 discount from the A900. There is some thought it might go even cheaper but as much as I hope this is true I wouldnt be betting my money on it.

A5XX - an A700 lite. Its widely believed that the A5XX series will be related to the A700 in some way and retail for about the price the A700 does at present. In truth if you took the A700, put it in a slightly cheaper body, gave it main sensor live-view and video and sold it for $US990 it would be a killer camera. I reckon thats pretty much what we'll get.

That leaves a Sony lie-up that goes something like this:

A230 - $US450
A330 - $US650
A380 - $US800
A500 - $US900
A550 - $US1200
A850 - $US2000
A900 - $US2600

Now thats based on a huge number of guesses and approximations but its close enough to draw a couple of conclusions. These are:

A7XX - Going uptown. There is space in this lineup for a 'higher' APS-C based 7 series but its going to have to push further up the price range to get away from the A5XX. Does the A7XX have to stay clear of the $US2000 A850? No!

I think it would be smart for Sony to have the A7XX and A850 both in the $US1800-$US2000 range. These could be very different camera's catering to very different user communities. I wouldnt see these camera's so much stealing sales from each other as vastly expanding the range of people that might consider buying a Sony.

Anyway - there's a solid rumour going around that a lot (not all - its never all) will be revealed on 28 Aug 2009. I'll come back and have a chat on this topic when (or if) this announcement happens.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tele vs wide - perspective

You know I could right a bunch of words here but why bother - there is an excellent little article on Luminous Landscape by Peter Cox on Changing Perspective that covers this really well.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Canon G11 - the megapixel race shifts into reverse

In a first, Canon has put the headlong race to ever higher megapixel counts into reverse with their latest incarnation of the serious photographers compact, the G series, the new G11 (thanks DPreview).

While there are undoubtedly many fine new features with this camera the single most interesting feature from a whole of market point of view is the fact that the new G11 is a "mere" 10Mp compared to the 14.2 Mp in the G10 it replaces. Not only that there is the constant reference to the new chip being a "high sensitivity" sensor.

What has driven this shift in direction? Well ever since the release of the amazing 12Mp FF D3 the benefits of high ISO shooting have certainly become better known and in many way ISO is the new Mp. Also, the advent of new micro 4/3s cameras like the Olympus E-P1 that offer the small size of the G series compacts with vastly better noise performance must have been a consideration.

But I also wonder if Canon was feeling the heat from other directions as well. Its interesting that in order to improve the noise performance of its G series compacts Canon has felt the need to drop resolution by about 35%. Time will tell how the IQ of this camera will stack up against some of the newest kids on the block, especially the ever popular (and now CMOS equipped) Ricoh's and even more interesting back lit Sony DSC-WX1.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Photographing Airports

First I should say that taking photos at an airport can be hard, not because of a lack of subjects, god knows there is actually the opposite problem, but the ever present risk of being considered a terrorist is not to be taken lightly.

The other day, waiting for my daughter I took my camera and was wandering around outside the terminal looking for interesting shots and I overheard (as I think I was meant to) the security guys talking about me and that if I walked past them again I'd get pulled up. This was a little confronting and also a little tempting. I wasn't actually going to pass them again as the plane I was waiting for landed, but hearing that I almost wanted to, but then again I didn't want to, and then I felt guilty about feeling some concern and almost started courting their scrutiny to prove to myself I wasn't afraid.

How fucking dumb was that getting?

Anyway, the real point. Airports are really cool place to photograph, not just (or even) the planes. Its the people, the buildings, the anticipation, longing, heartbreak - its all there. Actually I wasnt able to get much on my last trip except for this which I really like. The sense of abandonment and irrelevance really hits me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sunset - the last refuge of the desparate photographer

Earlier, one of the suggestions I had for people running out of inspiration was to consider collecting street art and try and compile a record of the place you live in a slightly unconventional way. Well here's another look at an old standby for those times you are running low on inspiration.

Ok, first I should admit that living in Newcastle, NSW makes this pretty easy. Mid north Coast weather means nice clear skies, easy temperaures and lots of water - all in all golden hour/sunset gold.

Still, it might be all set up for you but you've still got to get out their and actually take the shot which is what I've tried to do here. The first shot is kind of obvious, a fishing boat navigating out of the harbour on sunset. An pretty unoriginal image but still pretty strong (in my mind at least). The second shot is probably still pretty obvious but here I felt comfortable pushing the processing quite a bit further. In a particular I sucked almost all the blue out of the picture leaving a pretty surreal, surface of mars sort of vibe, but with a Pelican sitting in the middle of it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pushing a new boundary - slow shutters

I tend to be a "literal" photographer. I mean I'll push and pull colours a little, tweak the contrast and occasionally play with filters but thats about it. However, the other night I headed down to the breakwater near the Nobbies lighthouse in Newcastle to catch some sunset shots over the harbour and heading home caught a scene that inspired me to try something more.

Near the end of the breakwater, inside the harbour is Horseshoe Beach. A wonderful little stretch of beach that is open to use as a leash free park for dogs and their owners. On this night, as the set dropped below the horizon and twilight settled over us some locals were still out there with their dogs, just eking the last bit of play from the day. A combination of the light, the dogs running, the headiness of having having a night to myself with my camera all combined to produce a kind of magical, fantastical, feeling.

I was inspired to try something new (for me) in an attempt to capture this magic. I was thinking of a photo I once saw of a jackel running in the night holding the head of its prey that I always admired (taken by Roy Toft - I cant find his jackel photo but this wilderbeast one is excellent too). I tried a couple of things but the slow shutter and partial pan gave me the result I was after. What I wanted to get was not a picture of the dogs, but rather pictures of the memory of dogs. Like cave painting arent pictures of animals but rather pictures of stories of animals.

I know others have done this better but I'll admit I'm pretty happy with how these two images worked.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A little more brand validation for Sony

Sony users always run the risk of becoming, or at least being seen to become real fanboys (and girls I suppose but they seem pretty rare). At the other extreme it can be tempting for we Sony users to go the other way and become in-house trolls, doing nothing but undermining the mount we feel trapped in. I wrote about this tendency in this blog post.

Therefore, its always nice to read an article that doesnt gush or decry but simply says nice things about the camera brand I'm using. And thats pretty much exactly what Andy Biggs has done with his short "review" of the Sony A900 and lenses in Namibia. Coming on the heels of the good things said by the online photography blog this is some cool brand validation.

And yes its sad that we Sony Shooters feel the need for this pep up.

The trouble with people....

shattered, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery. that we are all different.

I really like this image. The shattered glass, the hole punched through the wall behind it and the hasty blobs of silicon trying in vain to hold it all together. It captures the idea of horrible, mindless, sudden violence and the desire to do something about it, to hold back the breakdown that follows.

Its not quite perfect, if I'd taken more time I would have liked it to be sharper and I think I could have got a little straighter but all in all I'm pretty happy.

Funny then that it sinks like a stone in forums and passes with virtually no views and/or comments.

That's ok. I don't feel slighted or confused or mystified. This isn't a rant that people aren't appreciating my genius its just yet another acknowledgment that when it comes to aesthetic choices we are all different and one persons great shot is anothers' time waster.

So is there advice out there for the reader who stumbles on this blog? Yeah. If you arent getting the views, the comments, the favorites that you think you deserve get over yourself. We all have those moments but ultimately stop looking at the view counters and the comments and go back to the pictures. Do they still grab you, are you still proud of them?

That's all that matters.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The beauty of colour

just colours, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

What we like in photos is highly variable. Personally, I have a real weakness for colour. This shot is super simple and from a composition point of view doesn't have much to recommend it but the colour just blows me away.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Looking for inspiration - street art

Sometimes it just feels like you've taken a photo of everything you can possibly find. The kids run when you pick up the camera, your wife rolls her eyes, even the dogs just look bored. Every flower has been shot 100 times and if you chase one more bee or ant or bug of any sort you'll just scream.

Well occasionally its ok to stand on the shoulders of others and use their art to make yours. This doesnt come easy. First you have to find it. Yeah I know finding any old street art is easy and hardly a challenge. But finding something new, interesting and fun is much, much harder. However, its also rewarding.

The next step is to do something interesting with the shot, to ensure that you are really making something, not just copying it. Now thats a tricky issue. How far do you have to go? I dont know what you have to do, however, I know I feel comfortable with what I've done here.

Dont let it stop here, dont stop at one or two bits of art. Keep your eye's out and you'll find dozens of pieces like this, all around your neighbourhood. I promise. People, god love them, want to make stuff, they want to create, they want to express themselves. Go look you'll be amazed.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sometime art trumps craft

PMac Imagery flickr-00692, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

I'm not a portrait photographer, almost never trying to photographer people expecting to get a photo. Two reasons, one, dealing with people isnt why I do photography and, two, I'm crap at it.

So with that in mind when I got the chance to practice with some children through a local photography group I leapt at it. Funnily enough though, despite my recent post on the importance of paying attention to the craft of photography the truth is this is my favorite shot. Its out of focus, flare has destroyed the contrast and put spots into the shot but I still love it.

So yes, the craft is important, but the art will trump it when you get it right.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why the disproportionate weight to high ISO results

I can never understand the fascination people have with high ISO performance. No camera, even the low light geniuses like the D700 and D3 gets anywhere near its best performance more than 2, maybe 3, stops above its "base" iso. So with a base ISO of (say) 200, you will get your very best sharpness, colour, DR, noise etc etc at 200. This will hold up really well at 400, be pretty close at 800 and be noticeably different though probably still pretty good at 1600. Beyond here the quality fall off is obvious and clearly something you would want to avoid.

And this isnt a Sony thing, or a Nikon thing or a Canon thing - its a physics thing. Look at test photos from any camera and compare its output at ISO 100/200 to what it gets at 800/1600. Its obvious, while the high iso shots might be useable, side by side with the ISO 100/200 they will suck.

Thats probably why as I look through the 20000 odd photo's in my catalog, 95.2% of them are taken at ISO 800 or lower. Another 4.4% are at ISO 1600. And yes, do the maths and you'll see 0.4% of my photos are taken at ISO 3200 or higher.

So frankly I dont really care about high iso performance and whats more, given that most people I speak to have similar sorts of usage patterns I dont understand why most people seem to.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

a challenge - an example of the direct positive

a challenge in the sun, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

In my earlier post I described the Direct positive look - well here's an example (that I've punched up even more).

Processing - the Direct Positive look

One of my favorite "looks" when processing images is the "direct positive" look I discovered totally by accident when I bought Lightroom. So what is the direct positive look?

Well first lets go back in time. The term Direct Positive is defined as:

"Made from a transparency without an internegative on a direct positive colour paper. A high contrast positive image slide made only from camera ready originals with no negative required."

So basically the direct positive gives a kind of 'slide' characteristic. The colors are punchy, the contrast is high, the highlights are right on the limit of the clipping and the blacks are deep and luscious.

So what does that do in Lightroom?

Well it does pretty much the same thing - it pushes the exposure just over a stop, deepens the black point, applies a pretty strong S shaped contrast curve and also punches up the saturation in the blue channel.

The resulting image is really powerful and has a lot of visual "pop". That said it actually doesn't appear to be a particularly popular. I think in today's world the 'direct positive' look is seen as a little old fashioned, a little simple, perhaps even twee. Its not gritty, or 'street', it has no cred. A "dragan" look is so much cooler.

I dont care, I still love it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

ghost rider

ghost rider, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

Reaching back in time just over two years to when I had just started in this hobby. this is still one of my all time favorite images. I think its that the seat and wall and window are all so clean but with the slight ruffling where someone was sitting its as if a ghost was still there enjoying the view.

I find its fun sometimes to take a journey back through our older photos, not to learn or poke fun or wonder at the equipment but simply to enjoy them. Sometimes it can be easy to become fixated on the next image and forget the great ones we've already got.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Sony A850 is peeking out of its hidey hole

Well a manual for the A850 has surfaced and been downloaded from Sony sites (thanks to Kyle Batson for the web version). It confirms the idea that the A850 isnt an uber APS body and is, instead, a stripped down A900, so an affordable FF 25 Mp. No I don't doubt the veracity of the manual downloads but something appears a little fishy. What I mean is the very deliberate looking leaking of virtually all the details of the new camera (barring price).

My theory?

Look at the threads on the A850. The user community is deeply split and no matter what Sony did a lot of people were going to be upset. By this leak Sony is able to let a lot of the venting take place before the release and let us concentrate on the real party trick - the price.

PS - I was completely totally, utterly and unambiguously wrong. I completely misread the tea leaves and admit it freely. Read how wrong I got it.

PPS - I'm actually pretty stoked by that - personally the A850 is looking like the camera I really want.

PPPS - But I am a little concerned on the apparent lack of progress from Sony on some core photographic issues like autofocus.

Simple things

simple things, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

We often get wrapped up in exotic locations, big scary animals or shots of amazing people. And yet, this photo I got of just some grasses being blown in the wind really strikes me and makes me want to just be there again.

Whether its a photo or just the rest of our lives, sometimes I think we could all benefit from giving up on the chase for the complex, the distant, the amazing and simply embrace the simple.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The importance of craft

The digital revolution has brought tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of newcomers to the field - like me. And this explosion of photographers has occurred at a time when the idea of self expression and individualism is also peaking. Therefore, many of the new breed - like me - are perhaps a little too devoted to the idea of being an artist and a little too dismissive of the craft of being a good photographer.

I'm writing this in the aftermath of having 8 quality control rejects in a row from my stock agency. I'd never had more than 2 in the past, now 8. Now to be honest I think the QC standards have changed a little of late but one thing it highlighted to me was that its vital not to get carried away with the so-called 'pictorial' elements of a shot and forget the technical.

Oh - by the way, I had a success and got a batch through this morning. So I feel good now.


lines, originally uploaded by PMac Imagery.

To be honest this photo didnt completely work, it looked good in the camera but when I got it on the big screen it became obvious I needed to close it done a little to get the whole thing in focus. But I still like it anyway.

I love the textures and the colours. It just makes me remember the feeling of a late afternoon in Newcastle, a great time and a great place.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My guesses at an A850 spec

Well the A700 is getting on, there are strong rumours of an A500/550 pair that is likely to fill up the space the A700 currently occupies so the only way is up for the A850. So developing my theory of the A850 as an uber APS body to go head to head with the Nikon D400 here's my theory.

Body. About A700 sized, wouldn't be surprised to see more sealing, bigger VF. This seems to be something Sony is staking a claim on. Some small cues to the new 230/330/380 line but not much. Sony will be sticking to the minimalist, little bling look of the A900 at this point. On this point, Sony will stick to CF - justified or not, its the 'serious' choice.

Sensor. I suspect Sony will push the sensor to match the K7/50D so expect something in the 14-16 Mp range. I anticipate that ISO performance will continue to improve but not at the rate some will want. So I reakon we'll get a few more Mp and between half and a full stop better iso performance. Yeah it will still lag the very best in class but so what, it'll still be amazing.

Live View. I believe Sony will give us main sensor LV and will claim that its line about doing it properly applied to getting contrast detect AF working really well in a DSLR. On that point I think Sony will give us a really good LV AF module. Possible - see speed and displays.

Video. I think it'll come with video with a lot of bells and whistles. This is an area Sony should absolutely nail. On a side point, I wouldnt be surprised to see Sony Vegas movie studio shipped with the camera.

Phase Detect AF. This is an interesting one. Part of me would not be surprised to see Sony forgo huge leaps in this form of AF, thinking that we are only a generation from full EVAL cameras and this is a dead end. But while possible I dont think thats where we'll go. AF cross points is the new 'headline' feature - I'm guessing we'll get at least 5, probably 7, possibly 9. I also think we'll see a corresponding increase in 'assist' points. So we'll be looking at something like 20 AF points. All this will come with the usual claims. Again it will trail the Nikons and Canon 1 series but it will be closer than ever before.

Metering. I'd be surprised if there were major changes here. Not a headline feature or a particularly compelling review point. Not saying the current system is great but look at this site, even amongst us geeks its not a topic we give a lot of time to.

Speed. Ok, here it gets exciting (for some). My guess - 10 FPS - why? These things tend to come in round numbers. Data rates simply arent an issue with something like a 15 Mp sensor and state of the art chips.

While unlikely, its possible Sony might feel adventurous and catch us by surprise here. Perhaps a killer contrast detect LV AF, an electronic shutter and an LV 20-30 fps mode.

Controls/displays. Pretty much what we have. Probable. Incremental improvement plus some modification to incorporate video. Possible. Sony must be keen to get an OLED display out there soon, this camera is a likely candidate. Might trade a slightly smaller, tilting OLED for current LCD. OLED tech could also be one of the things that takes LV from toy to truly useful with significantly better angle of view, sunlight and colour performance.

Customisation. Really part of controls I guess. Pretty simple - more. Not as much as the D300 but a lot closer. (yes I realise Nikon will have the D400).

Other bits and pieces. Probable. Frankly I expect in body GPS and some form of wireless data transfer. Lens micro adjust will be there to I suppose. Possible. Some of the stuff appearing on new superzooms like auto panos, face detect, etc

Price. $US1900

Conclusion. I seriously believe this camera is possible in 2009, whether its possible for Sony is perhaps another question. I think it is but then again I'm used to being disappointed.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rumours - the bane of the Sony Shooter

In a prior post I spoke about the spectacular angst of the Sony shooter and the special anger we can feel towards our own mount. Another manifestation of this unique relationship with our mount is a really pronounced sensitivity to rumours.

The Sony Alpha community is riven with concern that at any moment our "parent" will decide that the passion is gone and walk away. So like uncertain children we are constantly searching for signs that we are still loved, that we are still the ones Sony wants to please. So we pounce on anything, any little error in a web site menu, any obscure reference in a firmware referencing system, any reference in an interview.

Well we are getting pretty hot under the collar right now. Word is that three new camera's are getting close. They are the A500, A550 and A850.

Tomorrow I might spend a bit of time guessing precise specs but fro now this is basically how I think its likely to work.

1 the A500 will be the A700 shrunk a little, cleaned up a little, etc

2. the A550 will be the A550 with an upgraded sensor.

so far nothing novel. But,

3. the A850 will be an uber APS body, using the A550 sensor but perhaps with features that actually take it well past the A900. With a D300 like price pushing towards $1800-1900. This gives Sony a vehicle to get advances in AF, metering, video, LV - god knows, onto the market in a form that doesnt detract too much from the A900 which remains the king of the hill simply by virtue of being FF.

4. We wont get a 7 series for a while - the Sony line-up will look a bit like the Nikon set-up with a similar gap between the A550 and A850 as the D90 and D300. Simply recycling the 7 series would create all sorts of problems as people would be confused as the new 7xx would cost up to double the price of the 700 it replaced.

Of course I'm almost certainly wrong.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Leica in 1937 and why we shouldnt feel bad

I was recently in a discussion on the net that began with one question and, as these things tend to do, it wandered off bringing in a bunch of new questions and considerations.  One of the issues that popped out for me was the question of Leica and in particular, its place in the pantheon of godlike tools early in its life.  I mean today, if someone actually puts their hand in their pocket for a $4000 camera and $1000-$5000 lenses we assume (often wrongly) they are pretty serious and determined to follow the hallowed footsteps of luminaries like Henri Cartier-Bresson.
But what did a Leica mean for those luminaries?  One of the reasons I was interested was that in recent discussions, it appears to be assumed that back when HCB, Robert Capa etc were emerging and embracing these new cameras, Leica's (and similar cameras of the newish 35mm format) were novelties, toy's, not to be used by "serious" photographers.  The fact that Leica et al came under the heading of "miniature" seemed to lead many modern readers to simply assume that these camera's were not to be taken particularly seriously at the time and that the photographers that embraced them were the equivalents of the subversives using Lomos, Holgas and iPhones as cameras today.  The flip side of this argument is the belief that worrying about having good gear is, paradoxically, a sign that you may not be serious enough.
In the kind of serendipity usually reserved for movies I was also browsing through a local bookshop last week and stumbled across an incomplete (I could only get volumes 1 and 2 of a 3 volume set) copy of "The Encyclopedia of Modern Photography" and a similar (though much thinner) book titled "Manual of the Miniature Camera" a little net research indicates each of these books was published somewhere in late 1937 to early 1938.   In these books I found enough to indicate that the modern idea of the "novelty" of the Leica and its position at the bottom of the photographic rung (at least by the mid to late 1930's) was seriously misplaced.
First, let us look at the definition of the "miniature camera".   According to my Modern Encyclopedia (of 1937) a miniature camera was anything with a film size of 6cm x 6cm or less!  So by that definition a Phase One P65 is a miniature.   Thinking about this a bit more, it seems as though anything that was likely to require an enlarger to produce any sort of print was a "miniature" camera. 
Next, let’s consider how the Leica system was described. In simple terms, within its category, ie cameras with a film size of less than 6 cm x 6 cm the Leica system was regarded and the system to have. In the opening paragraph of the 1937 encyclopedia Leica was described thus:

"Today the camera (Leica) has a worldwide reputation both for its mechanical and optical perfection and for its extraordinary versatility."

Then after a page and a half of description its finishes with:

"It is probably true to say that no other camera is so complete a range of technical equipment available as with the Leica, making as near to the ideal of a universal camera as scientific and manufacturing ingenuity is likely to achieve. With the serious amateur, the advanced worker and the professional alike it inspires a confidence that, properly handled it will respond to any demand that is made upon it effectively."

Finally, there is the sordid business of the price. Here I turn from the 1937 encyclopedia to the Manual of the Miniature Camera. First, it appears these books actually began life as Magazines that a publisher has edited and bound as a single volume. This is interesting because it means ads often remain behind as little time capsules to be pored over 70 years later. At the back of the Manual there’s an ad from a UK store, City Sale and Exchange. Over there, the most expensive camera in their ad is the Leica IIIb with a 50 f2 lens at 43 pounds. The Zeiss Contax II with a 35 f3.5 is 40 pounds. When we get to Kodak and Rolleicord we are down to 12 to 16 pounds. Now I’ve got to admit, I have no idea what other format cameras were selling for. The Encyclopedia has a bit of a list too but that’s RRP so isn’t necessarily accurate however, it does list a huge number of brands from Balinda to Wessex and the Leica’s are the most expensive camera in the book bar none.

Note if anyone is interested, in 1937 a Leitz 200mm f4.5 could be yours for 37 pounds.

So what does this mean?  Well before I begin spruiking my ideas, my 'research' is very narrow, relies upon only those resources I happened to have hanging around through dumb luck and therefore isn’t corroborated with much else, so I can’t claim that this is the last word on the argument and in the face of better research I'd have to rethink my theories pretty quickly. 
Perhaps most importantly I think modern readers must be very careful how we interpret words from the past.  We tend to see a word like "miniature" and instantly make assumptions about the product.  Today a miniature car, pony or camera is a toy.  Not a serious product.  In the 1930's this wasnt always the case.   The 30's was a time of things being reduced in size and increased in potency.   Technology, as we would understand it, was taking hold as radios, televisions etc escaped the labs and appeared in homes.  Of course the word "miniature" could carry negative connotations but not always, instead, it could also indicate modern, cutting edge, the future.   In a way, "miniature" in the 30's is not unlike "automatic" in the 70's.  However thats a discussion for another day.
Next, I think we should dispose of the myth that the brace of heroes like HCB were really running ahead of the crowd in grabbing the Leica driven solely by its small size and handling qualities, uncaring of its technical qualities.  Despite its small (for the time) format, within a very short time Leica was acknowledged as an excellent camera both optically and in terms of the 'aids' it brought the photographer.  Perhaps as important as the words directed at the system is the simple acknowledgment of the price.  Clearly, the decision to adopt this system in the mid to late 30's was not a cheap one or something entered into lightly.  One only chose to enter this segment of the photographic world after long and careful consideration.  Note, I'm not saying that inside HCB, Capa etc there was an Ansell Adams just wishing they could find a mule to carry their gear.  But I do contend that modern attempts to imply that these people that redefined 'street' photography were unconcerned with their equipment and the technical qualities of their camera's are misguided. 
So for us, I think we should quit beating ourselves up when we find ourselves talking gear.  Spending a lot of time to research and money to buy the equipment you think you need has a long and proud tradition in all genres of photography.  Of course be careful to keep this in perspective but the next time someone implies that the camera doesn’t matter and that greats from the past got by with just a point and shoot, take heart, that simply isn’t true. 

Sunday, July 19, 2009

a little corner of the net that isnt about gear

Ok, actually there's quite a few sites that talk about the art of photography, but they tend to get drowned out by the vast array of gear sites. Even sites such as Luminous Landscape, once very technique driven, are becoming more and more about the stuff we use to take pictures and less about the pictures.

But the take over is not complete. One of the semi-regular contributors on that site, Alain Birot, has his own little corner of the site, call Birots View, that has quite a bit on actually getting and image worth of all that gear we want to buy. Head over there and enjoy.

(and I promise to write something more interesting soon)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

How to take better travel photos

Travel photography isnt sexy, isnt edgy, doesnt involve lots of gear and tends to remind many (like me) of tedious nights watching aunt Doris's slides from her trip to the Gold Coast. But the truth is we all take them and really good travel photos are a joy both to yourself and (if you are lucky) to the people who buy the prints long after the trip.

I wish I were an expert on this but I'm not.

Andy Biggs is however and he's done us all a favour and given us some top tips for getting the best out of our shots when we travel. A short, sharp but still worthwhile read. Read the article in Wide World Magazine here. Andy does a blog to.

My first meetup - in Newcastle

This photography hobby of ours can be pretty solitary at times except for the uncertain and tenuous relationships we might be able to sustain over the net. Well you know what, there is a real world too, with real people, where you can really meet.

When I was living in Seattle I was part of a wonderful, real, flickr community and made some actual friends. As much as Ive loved Newcastle since moving here I've really missed that photo community.

Well today I rediscovered it. I had my first flickr NHVP (Newcastle Hunter Valley Photographers) meetup today and it was great. I will definitely be doing more of that in future. The meetup today was part of the whole Scott Kelby photo walk, obviously covering Newcastle NSW and while I dont think I was "on" today from a photographic point of view I still had a ball.

So if any one reads this blog and wants one piece of advice. Get out there and meet real people, Get away from the computer, head down the pub, go for a walk, take some photos, actually talk and "meet up".

Hey did people notice, I'm getting smarter (slowly) see I've even started putting links in.

Friday, July 17, 2009

PMacImagery Photo Critique worksheet Version 1.0

This is a synthesis of my thoughts and a couple of idea’s I gathered (ok stole) from the net. The real crime is that I drafted this ages ago, moved it around, lost my notes and now can’t find my references. If any reader ever says “hey that’s mine” please let me know and I’ll get references and links in as fast as I can.

This is also Version 1.0. Since writing this down I’m finding there are bits that work, bits that don’t, bits that might go away and bits that need more detail. All in all there will be a version 2 (one day).

1) Look

First of all, shut up and look. If there is a collection of photos start with the collection as a whole, what’s its aim, what’s its point, establish a frame of reference for the photo you are critiquing. Then start at the whole picture and work in. Don’t judge the photo, just try and “read” it. If you do find something sticking in your head, note it but try not to get distracted by it.

2) Interpretation

Well this depends on the forum – is this the net/magazine with just a photo or a gallery style showing with the photographer standing next to you.

If the guy or girl is there, have a chat, talk about the photo for a bit. Do a bit of Q&A, what were you intending? I feel this, was that planned? Even in net reviews people will often say where they were heading, what they were thinking.

If you are alone with the photo with no guidance I recommend at least trying to think what the photographer might have been trying to say.

3) Artistic points

Start simple and get more complex. This is my checklist:

First look at the composition or content in the photograph. What is the centre of interest in the picture? Where did the photographer place it in the frame? Did the photographer get close enough to the subject to include only what is important, or are there wasted parts of the picture with elements that do not add to the message of the photo?

If the photo is in black and white, should it have been in colour and vice-versa?

Is there a good balance between the foreground and the background?

Would the photo have worked better with a different prop / model?

Next, observe the background in the photograph. How did the photographer represent the background in regards to focus and depth of field? How does the background add or distract from the message of the photo?

4) Technical points (these need to be read very carefully in light of the photographers artistic choices discussed above).

Did you spot dust - thats almost always bad.

Is the exposure okay for what is intended. A properly exposed photo will have some texture in the shadows if that texture is missing is it detracting from the overall picture? Are details missing because of over or under exposure - always returning to the question, are the missing details important to the image.

Is there any unwanted blur (wrong focus, motion blur, zoom blur etc)? Now take a look at the technical camera work involved in the photograph. Is the subject sharp and clearly in focus (if that was the apparent intent of the photographer)?

Are the colours accurately represented? Or if the photographer wasn’t aiming for accuracy did the colours help the image or hinder it.

What’s the contrast like?

Could the photographer have used lighting differently to better achieve the aim they stated (or we’ve assumed).

Would a bigger or smaller aperture have been beneficial to portray the scene effectively?

Photoshopping – has it been done well? Are there artefacts, smudges, obvious cloning, over smoothing etc.

Last of all I look at the craftsmanship the photographer exhibits. Does the physical photo have spots, stains, or scratches? Is it placed nicely in a frame or elaborately displayed? Is there evidence that the photograph was made with care in the process? I also apply this (with some reservations) to shots on the net when considering framing, watermarks, captions, added text etc.

5) Good points

Point out what you like about the photograph, and why. The why bit is most important: If you can’t tell why you like X, Y, or Z, there’s no point in mentioning it. “I like the sky” is useless. “I like the colour of the sky” is better. “I like the deep blue colour of the sky because it contrasts nicely with the yellows and reds in the photo” is perfect. Put some thought into this.

6) Points worth improving for next time

This point is saved for last, because you’ve made the photographer more confident about their photograph by now. It is still important to remember that the photo has been taken, and that this photo can’t really be changed anymore. As such, there’s no point in slating people for their photographs. Tell them one or two specific points that could be improved on this particular photo (’clean up dust’ and ‘turn into black and white’ are useful suggestions, as they can done in the darkroom), and perhaps one or two points that you would have done differently, if you were the one taking the photograph.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Well I'm back but feelin lazy

After a the best part of a month away you'd think I'm full of stuff to write about and in truth I am but frankly I'm feeling kind of lazy and cant work up the mental activity to blog.

Is this the ultimate is half arsed blogging, writing about how I cant be bothered writing?

Probably but I console myself that its better than no writing about not feeling like writing.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Is the old way the best way?

There is a trend emerging on the net, generally amongst older photographers, to point to simpler times and advise the new generation to follow a similar path. Usually this will involve some sort of return to film, a fully manual camera, and a simple fixed focal length lens. The idea seems to be that by forcing people into a more rigidly controlled,less forgiving environment they will acquire a deeper understanding of the craft of photography and gain discipline from the experience.

I am not so sure.

In reading blogs from many of these people, another theme that comes through is their dissatisfaction with digital and its inability to replicate what they got with film. As if the replication of what they have done in the past is the ultimate aim of the new medium.

I wonder if, the discipline these people have learnt is actually a strait jacket, constricting their creativity and their ability to adapt. Worse, I wonder if by encouraging newcomers to photography to follow their path, while certainly giving the new guys and girls a greater grasp of the craft, if they aren't also crippling their art in the long term.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Why Sony forums get a little tense

The internet is a place for conflict, we are mostly hidden away in our bedrooms or studies tapping away safe in the knowledge that no matter how horrible we are, our 'real' selves are immune to any pay back or opprobrium for what we say on the net. Photography forums are generally pretty civil, but there is an undercurrent of tension that runs through many that occasionally bubbles to the surface.

Recently I've noticed that the Sony forums (which are my main haunts) are probably the some of the 'worst' of the photography based fora. To the extent that on DPReview recently one poster felt the need to wonder if Sony users should actively work to calm it down a notch. That's probably not a bad idea but it made me wonder what is it with Sony that seems to be making this happen. My theory is that there are 3 factors.

1. Since taking over Minolta, Sony now has trolls actually in its ranks. Usually trolls are people from outside a brand who pop in to cause a bit of trouble for the thrill of it. In Sony's case there people are from another brand - Minolta (notice how the Konica always gets dropped off) - but they don't pop in, they live on the Sony fora. The resent Sony for swallowing up the company they loved, they feel Sony is treating the Minolta heritage with disrespect and they constantly cry that every problem with every camera Sony has produced is solely a result of Sony changing something Minolta had. These people bring an overwhelming and incessant negativity to any and all Sony photography fora.

2. Sony is a hated brand at the best of times. Apple and Pentax etc are brands that everyone loves. Even people that don't use their products always have a soft spot for them and hope they do well. Microsoft, Sony, IBM etc are hated brands - even people that have never used their products just seem to hate them on principle. Sometimes its their business practices, their history, their success, god knows. But the harsh fact of life is Sony just isn't a huggable brand.

3. The underdogs fans are always hypercritical. The fans of the underdog, whether its a camera company, sports team or political party know that to win their guy has to be better than the opposition and when their guy fails, even just a little, they fear the backsliding will begin and the race lost forever. Therefore, the fans of the underdog become super sensitive, concerned over every little slip-up, careful not to let a single discretion go on by. Compounding this sensitivity is two 'sub factors':

a) Not wanting to be wrong. Like tipping against your football team, slagging off at your own brand protects you a little if they do actually fail. Yes your company has gone and your camera is no longer supported but at least you weren't fooled - you always knew there were problems. Moreover, you knew the answers and they just should have listened to you.

b) Justifying shifting. Being part of the minority is tough. Not only that, sometimes no matter how good the things your brand are offering might be, sometimes your brand just doesn't offer what you need. But shifting brand is also tough, there's a lot of inertia to overcome and sometimes a lot of money to find. So trashing your brand is part of the process for leaving. Leaving because one lens isn't quite cheap enough is a tough sell, even to yourself, but leaving because Sony sucks and everything they touch is crap is easy.

None of this should be taken to imply that Sony and its products are perfect and beyond criticism. In fact there are many, many things I'd like to see Sony changes and I've never hidden that fact. All I'm seeking to investigate in this post is the venom you see sometimes in Sony fora.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What do I look for in a lens

Some recent discussion on Nikon v Sony lenses sent me scurrying off to the net for a quick literature search of tests and I found something interesting about myself. That there were parts of tests I cared deeply about, and parts I didn't give two hoots about. Since then, over a coffee, I've had a think about what I care about in more detail. And here's my results....

1. Resolution. Why? I can correct pretty much everything else in processing - that simple - whereas if the data didnt make it through the lens onto the sensor and out, I'm screwed. But within resolution, what matters to me:

a) center resolution wide open (wide open I expect a narrow DOF anyway so edges are irrelevant)

b) maximum achieveable resolution at any setting

c) across the frame performance in the f4-f8 range.

2. Flare. Can be fixed but very hard and seems to always crop up at the worst time.

3. Bokeh - not that interested in grading it, I find that impossible to characterize across all different scenarios, but I look for problems.

4. Anything else that's much worse than the norm and so bad I'd have to spend more time than its worth to fix it.

5. I do also look for something "special" dont know what it is, but I know when its missing. My Zeiss 50 has it, my Sigma 20 has it, my other Sigmas dont. Its feel, its weight, its smoothness, its coolness, its that special X, factor, the David Bowie bit.

As always these are whats important to me given what and how I shoot and process.

How do others assess glass? Whats important to you?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

And then depression set in..

After a great run of over 20 trouble free submissions to Alamy - four rejects in the row. What the fuck! I've never had that many outs before.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Once again I have a decision to make

Well, once again I sit on the cusp of a great decision. After three years of using a DSLR I've finally figured out what I want in terms of a lens line-up. Basically I want a bunch of fast wide to short tele primes and a really long zoom - that's about it. The bad bit is that having decided on what I want I realise I actually only have a small part of it (a 50mm 1.4) and I have to buy the rest from scratch. But given that situation I now have the opportunity to again look at my system choice. This is something that I need to think about really carefully but one thing that is interesting is how little money is a factor.

More to come on this.....

Sony Canon EQ Nikon Eq
A900 2700 2700 2700
2x 1.X n/a n/a
35 1.4 G 1370 1180 360
50 1.4 0 484 325
85 1.4 1370 1870 1230
135 1.8 1480 935 1270
70-400 1600 1460 1550
$US Total 8520 8629 7435

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Somtimes I love a simple image

With all the whizz bang effects that our software affords us these days sometimes I find my self wanting to strip it all away and present some very simple, very "clean" images. A recent visit to a car show gave me that opportunity. The clean flanks of the cars with their stark badges really call out for a very simple but powerful image. I hope I did them proud.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

is photographing graffiti stealing?

I'm going to equivocate on this question (because it suits me to). So yes it is and no it isnt. What the?!? 'Legal' graffiti with registered artists that can be readily found is off limits to me, they have played by the rules and created a property right to be respected, I wont touch it. Anonymous taggers, stecilers, etc are a whole lot harder to figure out.

This is my rule. If I've got a tag I can identify (and that's something I'm not good at) I'll try and attribute it and in the event I made some cash and found the creator I'll gladly come to some arrangement.

But then again how do I come to an agreement with an anonymous person, who do I make the cheque out to or whose bank account do I deposit the funds into. How do I know the person purporting to own the copyright to the image in fact does. If all I have is a false identity how do I get recourse later if another person claims/proves ownership? I see some really difficult practical questions arising here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

a little brand validation

You know I'd like to pretend that my choice to invest in the Sony system is behind me and that I can go forward happy in the knowledge the system provides everything I want etc. But the truth is, like just about everyone who finds themselves owning a 'fringe' brand I always enjoy a little brand validation. Well today that came in the form of a lovely little article on one of the better photography blogs - The Online Photographer - where the Sony A900 got quite a nice write-up.

Is this the last word in reviews, of course not. Does it mean that my decision to be in the Sony system is right - nah! In fact it means nothing - but still its better than getting a kicking.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The idea of using film as a Zen experience

A professional photographer and pretty good blogger, Doug Munuez, has written a nice piece on his transition from film to digital, the feeling of dissatisfaction that left him with and how using film has restored his sense of balance and fulfilment. He has characterised this as the Zen of Film.

I respectfully disagree. Or more positively, I agree, but only sort of.

I think what the author is reflecting upon is “his” Zen. ‘Zen’, stripped down and condensed is just a way of learning from direct experience rather than on rational creeds or revealed scriptures. Wisdom is passed, not through words, but through a lineage of one-to-one direct transmission of thought from teacher to student. (adapted from a Wiki definition).

From the articles wistful reminiscing on using film since ten, boozy late night development /printing sessions, and the times spent with older mentors its pretty clear that the author experienced this sort of learning with his film development. Whilst I am certain that there would have been theory lessons on the nuts and bolts of photography, the overall theme is of his development in film is one of a slow, lifelong meditative growth.

Conversely, for the author, digital is all theory and rationality. Its not about finding new things to do or believe in, its merely about finding out how to do what he was doing in film using a new technique. Again stealing from wiki: What Zen emphasizes is that the awakening taught by the Buddha came through his meditation practice, not from any words that he read or discovered, and so it is primarily through meditation that others too may awaken to the same insights as the Buddha.” For the author, digital is all words and discoveries hence digital is ultimately unsatisfying. This becomes clear in his choice of words to describe how he uses digital – he always chooses a pejorative to describe digital practices.

So nothing the author has written is wrong – for him.

However, for others (like me) its not so clear. In fact, I sense that for me, it could be the other way round. My only ‘zen’ could be digital – that is my slow meditative practice. Digital is my first path to wisdom through the exploration and contemplation of the world through my experience whereas there is a real risk that film could be nothing but cold rationality and theory, simply learned mechanistic technique to reproduce what I already had.

But I don’t believe it has to be this way, hence I say it “could” be like this for me. I am trying to make both digital and film my ‘zen’. I think the key to this is not trying to replace one with the other but to allow yourself the room to meditate on both. The author of this piece clearly has not done this for digital.

Ultimately, therefore I see this story as a record of failure. When confronted with a challenge (his dissatisfaction with digital) rather than embrace the challenge, allow himself to meditate on that path he has surrendered and reverted to an older, safer way.